from Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate

This week, transit bonding bills began to be heard in Committee – in the Senate Capital Investment Committee on Monday and in the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday.  Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal includes $25 million to the Metropolitan Council to cover a portion of the preliminary engineering costs for the Southwest LRT. 

A strong lineup of testifiers (from local and county governments and the Met Council to  Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce) stressed the economic returns from investing in the Southwest LRT, the financial commitment to the project by county government, and the rigorous process by which light rail transit was chosen for this corridor. A recent blog by Governor Dayton relays similar benefits and highlights the positive impact on jobs and the environment (see link).

As we build out a regional system of transitways, state general obligation bonding is expected to cover 10% of the total capital costs.  The other 90% will come from the federal government (50%) the Counties Transit Improvement Board (30%) and the counties (10%) through which the line travels.  Few, if any, other projects being considered for general obligation bonding will leverage nine additional dollars for every state dollar invested.

Bonding bills for several other transit projects, while not in the Governor’s bonding bill, are also being heard. These include:

  • Gateway (I-94 E) Corridor
  • The Minneapolis Interchange (a transit station at Twins Stadium, where multiple lines beyond the Hiawatha and Northstar will eventually converge).
  • Red Rock Transitway (freight rail improvements that will help move this project forward).
  • Lake Street and I-35W Transit Station (creation of a center median transit facility similar to that at 46th St. and I-35W).
  • Maple Grove Transit Station
  • Greater Minnesota transit facilities, in Mankato, Duluth and St. Cloud

Additional transit bonding bills have been submitted for Bottineau Corridor, Cedar Avenue BRT, and Robert St. Corridor. Hearings on these bills have not yet been scheduled by the House Transportation Committee

While TLC strongly supports bonding that helps advance the build out of a regional transit system, we recognize the particular urgency of the Southwest bonding request this legislative session. Quite simply, if bonding for Southwest LRT is not passed this session, it could seriously delay and/or jeopardize the prospect of receiving $625 million in federal matching funds.  The Twin Cities competes with metro regions across the country for these competitive FTA funds, and our peer regions would be more than happy to take our place in line for the limited federal funding.